Journal — Dye

Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 17, Sycamore

Posted by Erin Howe on

Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 17,  Sycamore

There’s a monster of a sycamore tree near my creek, with roots the size of my arm sticking out of the creek bank and down into the water. How do I know those are the sycamore’s roots? They’ve got the same flaky patterned bark. That tree is set UP for water. It’s going to live forever.  Which is lovely, because I discovered it makes some delightful colors in the dyepot. The leaves (above) give champagne to ginger-ale tones, and the bark: Ballet pinks.  A comparison makes me wish I had a whole stack of fabrics in these colors to play...

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Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 16, Maple

Posted by Erin Howe on

Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 16, Maple

Acer species I have to admit I had high hopes for maple. Maple is the hands-down winner for fall tree color where I live, with different species ranging from yellow to red to orange that’ll make you into a traffic hazard staring at it while driving. Red Maple is the name of my business too, so I harbored a secret hope that something spectacular would come from maple.  But to expect the deepest browns or the woodsiest pinks from every plant I put in the pot is to forget the value of neutrals. Neutrals, quiet and understated, make everything else...

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Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 15, Oak

Posted by Erin Howe on

Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 15, Oak

Quercus species You had to know we were coming to oak eventually. Even I, a novice dyer, knew that oak would be something special. Here’s why. Tannins, I’m beginning to understand, make a world of difference in whether a dye will stick to cotton and linen (called “cellulose fabrics” by those with the lingo down). I’m also beginning to think that I could probably make a list of which trees contain the most tannin by just listing which trees I’ve had the most success with on those fabrics. No such list exists, as far as my searching goes.  Oak has...

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Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 14, Pecan

Posted by Erin Howe on

Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 14, Pecan

What's great about writing the word pecan, and indeed the word peony (a word that I use quite a lot), is that you just read those words with whatever pronunciation works for you, instead of snagging up on the one I use. Nice little language workaround there.  Pecan-Carya illinoinensis I do not have a pecan tree. Well, okay, I do, I have seven. But they’re three feet tall and I wouldn’t dare start stripping their leaves and small branches to make dye. I should say, I do not have a pecan tree that can spare any leaves and branches for...

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Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 13, Juniper

Posted by Erin Howe on

Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 13, Juniper

As I drove my tractor back and forth, dumping mulch for my blueberry bushes, I kept passing this fat little juniper tree. It was covered in green berries, and I wondered, as I wonder about every plant now, what color is in there? Peachy tans, it seems. I made a note to come back later in the year when the berries turn blue.  In the interest of a thorough scientific inquiry, I put juniper needles in the dyepot next.  Similar peachy tans…but wait. The cardstock sat in the dye overnight, and when I pulled it out and rinsed it in...

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